Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: stigma.

stigma. Part A: Plural. “Stigma” (/STiG-muh/) can be pluralized in two ways: “stigmas” and “stigmata” (/stig-MAH-tuh/). The English plural (“-mas”) is preferable in most contexts. But “stigmata” carries the specialized sense “bodily marks resembling the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ.” In this sense the word is sometimes pronounced /STiG-muh-tuh/, after the Greek and Latin. Part B: And “stigmatism.” “Stigmatism” (= [1] the absence of astigmatism, or [2] the condition of being afflicted with unhealthy spots on the skin, esp. spots that bleed) is frequently confounded with “stigma” (= a mark of disgrace) — e.g.: o “‘South Park’s’ edgy creators are fighting the stigmatism [read ‘stigma’] that they’re all about gross-out and shock-value.” Anthony D’Alessandro, “‘Bush’ League Project,” Daily Variety, 30 Mar. 2001, at A8. o “Millions of men and women who opened the closet door, ‘came out,’ risked social stigmatism [read ‘stigma’], as well as the loss of their jobs and careers.” “We’ve Come a Long Way,” S.F. Chron., 16 Oct. 2001, at A16. o “A possible reason for this may be to avoid the stigmatism [read ‘stigma’] that accompanies such a label [“aggression”] being applied to a State.” Dan Sarooshi, “The Peace and Justice Paradox,” in The Permanent International Criminal Court 95, 113 (Dominic McGoldrick et al. eds., 2004). Language-Change Index — “stigmatism” misused for “stigma”: Stage 1. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Language most shewes a man: speake that I may see thee. It springs out of the most retired, and inmost parts of us, and is the Image of the Parent of it, the mind. No glasse [i.e., mirror] renders a mans forme, or likenesse, so true as his speech.” Ben Jonson, Timber, or Discoveries (1641), in Classics in Composition 43, 56 (Donald E. Hayden ed., 1969).
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